Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Birthday Dinner(s)

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago. Traditionally, we celebrate it at home, and my wife makes the best Beef Wellington in the entire world just for us. However, this year, we were going to be traveling on my birthday, and ended up with two birthday dinners at restaurants: one here at home in Las Vegas, one in Monterey, CA. 

One of my favorite foods is prime rib, and I had been wanting to try dinner at Lawry’s: The Prime Rib for literally years. The main reason we hadn’t gone before is my hatred of driving down to the strip. However, the week before my birthday, we finally took the plunge, and it was worth it.

Upon arrival, I felt a little anxious. I have a rule: if I’m going out for a meal that will cost more than $20, I wear a shirt with buttons and pants that cover my legs completely. However, when we entered the restaurant, we saw several parties waiting for whom T-shirts and shorts were perfectly acceptable attire. I don’t want to judge, but in my experience, those are the same people who don’t mind loudly shouting on their cell phones throughout dinner. (Okay, I may not want to judge, but I’m doing it anyway.)

Fortunately, when we were seated, I saw that the dining room was pretty spacious, enough so that we weren’t seated near anyone. It was very much an old-school ambiance, but what really won me over were the two sculptures of black panthers at the entryway.

My wife and I both ordered drinks, which was about the only hiccup of the evening. I wanted to try their signature martini, which comes with olives stuffed with horseradish and prime rib. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about the drink; I just wanted those olives.

However, when our server started to recommend drinks to my wife, he made the mistake of saying that he didn't recommend the martini to the ladies, because it’s so strong. While my wife is by no means a heavy drinker, one of her pet peeves is being told a drink is too strong for women. You could almost see the steam coming out of her ears! Ultimately, she ended up ordering a mango mojito, and our server spent the rest of the evening trying to make up for his mistake, so all was good.

(As were the drinks. I will say this for Lawry’s: they do not skimp on the alcohol!)

Because we wanted to be able to order dessert, we did not order appetizers or additional sides with our meal. The meal came with their “famous spinning bowl salad,” which was more than enough for us. The highlights of the salad for me were the croutons and the sherry-based French dressing. The spinning bowl part of it was maybe more showmanship than necessary, but it was fun to watch.

Also fun was watching them carve the prime rib tableside. That way, we knew that it hadn't been sitting around in the kitchen for a while. We both had the traditional Lawry cut of the prime rib; my wife had the regular mashed potatoes that it came with, while I upgraded mine to garlic sour cream mashed potatoes. We both agreed those potatoes were worth the extra money. The dinner also came with Yorkshire pudding, which was fantastic when used to soak up the juice from the meat, and servings of regular fresh horseradish and their signature whipped cream horseradish. 

I didn’t take pictures of the horseradishes, but they were both great. The fresh horseradish was sharp and tangy, while the whipped cream horseradish was light and delicate. It pretty much melted right after putting it on the meat, leaving enough flavor to enhance the beef without tasting like some kind of creamy frosting, like too many creamy horseradishes tend to do.

For dessert, my wife ordered the sticky toffee pudding. Her own sticky toffee pudding is to die for, so when I say that this one was pretty good, understand that the bar is set pretty high. (Unfortunately, after one cocktail and a glass of wine, I was feeling about as focused as this photo of her dessert.)

For myself, I had the chocolate macadamia nut pie. It was a close call between that and the hot fudge sundae, which is prepared tableside. Ultimately, I decided that I have had hot fudge sundaes before, so I will try that on a future visit. I’m glad I ordered the pie; I would compare it to a pecan pie in terms of texture, although obviously with macadamia nuts instead of pecans, and a strong chocolate flavor.

Overall, aside from the server's sexist drink recommendations, we were very impressed with our first visit to Lawry’s: The Prime Rib, and will definitely be going back. If nothing else, I want to go there for lunch to try their pastrami and prime rib sandwich.

For my actual birthday, we took a trip to Pacific Grove, CA, and had dinner in neighboring Monterey, at the Sardine Factory. This is another old-school restaurant, although we noticed that they have taken their signature Baked Alaska off the dessert menu.

When I made my reservation, I had told them we were celebrating my birthday. Just as we were walking in the door, I received a text message wishing me a happy birthday, and letting me know that our table was ready. That’s the kind of service and class that brings us back to the Sardine Factory again and again!

We were seated in the conservatory, which is kind of like sitting in a greenhouse, but the plants are all outside. I couldn’t resist taking a selfie.

For cocktails, my wife ordered the New Fashion, which I did not take a picture of. It consisted of Angel’s Envy port cask bourbon, muddled Bada Bing cherries, Angostura bitters & splash of soda.

Since we were in the Sardine Factory, I felt compelled to order a Blue Sardine, which the menu describes as “The Factory’s own little fish! Gin, Hpnotiq liqueur, peach Schnapps & Blue Curacao with a splash of fresh lime juice, garnished with garden fresh mint.“ My wife thought the mint leaf in the glass was a sardine at first!

Speaking of sardines, I ordered the smoked sardines as an appetizer. In all the times we’ve been to this restaurant, I’ve never actually had the sardines! They were lightly smoked, and with the greens, capers, and onions, were fantastic.

My wife ordered the Saltspring Island Mussels as her appetizer, and they were also delicious.

We also ordered the Factory’s Famous Cheese Bread to share, which I forgot to photograph. (It was my birthday; I was focused on enjoying the meal first.) This featured Tillamook cheddar, Romano & Parmesan cheese on toasted sourdough bread. It was fantastic; the only issue we had was that there was an odd number of pieces.

For dinner, my wife chose the house-made truffled gnocchi, which were served with wild mushrooms, sunchokes, aged Parmesan, chardonnay cream sauce.

For me, choosing dinner was easy. Several years ago, I had tried their parmesan-crusted calamari steak, scallops and prawns dinner, which is served with a chive risotto and a lemon-caper sauce. It was my first ever calamari steak, and I had fallen in love. Since then, I have had calamari steak on a sandwich at a Monterey eatery, and for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. But I’ve never forgotten that meal at Sardine Factory, so I had to order it again.

Once again, the whole thing was fantastic. The calamari steak was just the right texture; tender without being undercooked. The risotto was delicious. I love scallops, and these were cooked just right, just firm enough, just tender enough, and with no grittiness at all. And the prawns were the perfect capper. If I wasn’t going to have my wife’s Beef Wellington for my birthday, this was the best runner-up for which I could possibly hope.

I cheated and used a wine-pairing app to see what wine would go well with my meal. It recommended a Riesling, which is one of my wife’s favorite wines, and the sommelier recommended this one. It paired perfectly with my meal.

For dessert, the restaurant surprised me with a piece of their chef’s sachertorte. That’s a dessert my mother had introduced me to when I was a kid, so not only did it taste great, it had a connection to my childhood.

My wife, unable to decide on a dessert, wisely chose the Italian trio of house-made spumoni, tiramisu, and a cannoli. It all turned out to be even more than she expected, so I was “forced” to help her out with her dessert. I tried the tiramisu (which I had ordered on its own before) and the spumoni; she finished the cannoli before I could try a bite. Honestly, I would consider ordering this for myself next time.

So thanks to the Sardine Factory for a wonderful meal and experience on my actual birthday. Whenever we go to the Monterey Bay area, we make a point of dining there, and after this meal, we will continue to do so.

This week’s (non) Pop! of the Week is my new Hikari Captain Phasma. I hadn’t had much of an interest in the Hikari line until I got the mini Hikari Darth Vader in a Smuggler’s Bounty box, and the Captain America Hikari in the Marvel Collectors Corps Founders box. When I saw the photo of Phasma, I thought it looked absolutely gorgeous, so I took the plunge and ordered it. 

I love the brushed silver finish look to it. Because of the price and size, I don’t think I’ll be adding a huge number of Hikaris to my collection. However, some of them look pretty keen, so this will probably not be my last.

That’s it for this week. See you next week!

1 comment:

  1. Yum - both of your birthday dinners look delicious!